What kind of teenager will Wikipedia be? Changing direction without “parental” decision making
The global Wikipedia community is a fascinating example of a multi-agent system or swarm intelligence. However, unlike the classic example of an ant colony (where community policies and structures are set in DNA), policies and structures in Wikipedia have evolved without centralized coordination or control.
Yet individuals occupying different roles interdependently create, maintain, protect, and continually improve more than 17 million articles in 250 languages. As Wikipedia enters its second decade, there are signs that community growth has slowed or reversed in some places, and sped up in others. Is the slow-down in community growth an adaptation, or a failure of the community to continue adapting to new conditions? How can those who care about Wikipedia’s future answer these questions? And how can agents in a completely decentralized system lead a decisive change in direction?
Zack Exley has worked across the lines of technology and community organizing for 20 years, and has been behind some of the earliest experiments in online organizing and civic participation. His first computer was a Vic 20, and his first politics was the Central American Solidarity movement. He went on to participate in MoveOn.org; work with many U.S. and international NGOs; and participate in the campaigns of Howard Dean, John Kerry, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama. Before joining the Wikimedia Foundation, Zack was heading up non-profit work at the global software consultancy ThoughtWorks.
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